Well, for a couple of years now, I have looked at getting one of those bright, orange or yellow-ish green vests that outdoor workers wear, so that that can easily be seen. Now these colors aren't just bright, they tend to be on the brightness scale of a nuclear explosion and seem to have their own self-perpetuating glow. I know what you're thinking, totally not stylish and completely unattractive. Yes, I would agree that this is the case. I love my stylish, warm, leather coat and my nicely rain, wind, and cold resistant Joe Rocket Honda jacket with the body armor, but is there a place for neon-anything in our ever-so-cool motorcycle world?
Again, the reason I was even looking into it was because of the poor lighting and visibility that exists riding back and forth to work in the early spring and late fall when it is dark, or mostly dark when I ride in or come home. It is funny. I tried to order the vests from JC Whitney for a couple of years and each time they were on back order for months and then eventually canceled. Of course I thought, "Wow! Everyone had the same great idea- to be seen." Then I never saw anyone out riding with them on so I thought, "Why are they always on back order? Are they using them as desert anti-camouflage over in other lands?" Finally I decided that the fates were against me and apparently no one in the universe thought it was worth me having, so I kind of gave up the idea.
I don't know about other parts of the world, but here in the United States last year, they decided to extend our daylight savings time a month later into the fall and it begins a month earlier in the spring. Now I know sometimes our government here in the USA thinks its "all that” and a bucket of booze, but even they can't make the sun come up earlier (or set later), each year, just because they think it would be nifty and "green". So, I still often looked, and wondered if it would make a difference. Well, I’m here to tell you, coolness aside, that I think it definitely does make a difference.
My mom was able to get a $5 hyper-neon orange wind breaker for me. Now it has got a slight lining, but it isn’t even soft like most windbreakers, it’s a bit abrasive. (In other words, if I wore it for a few hours in the wind, riding, I might end up with a full arm exfoliation.) Now is not the time of the year I envisioned using said “eye catcher”, but I wanted to experiment and waiting 4 months or so was too boring. So, I thought if a jacket like this would stand out and catch people’s eyes at twilight or on dubiously cloudy days, would it even get noticed on bright, sunny summer days, in broad daylight? Again, the answer is YES. And having done very scientific testing (ok, I observed, that is actually scientific) over the last few weeks I can tell you that the response to my hyper-bright orange jacket has been even more than I might have anticipated in fall trials.
Here are my observations:
- People do see and notice you. They actually see you.
- People tend to stay to the far side of adjacent lanes, away from you.
- People tend to give more space behind you.
- People 3 lanes over in opposite flow traffic will be drawn to notice your hyper-orangeness.
- It does occasionally draw people’s attention from their cell phones to notice you.
- You do get some strange looks from other motorcycle riders in more standard “cool” gear.
- It does make a difference even on a brightly lit summer morning, when driving in to work you’ll notice that one way has the sun at your back and there’s good visibility in front, but, going the other way with the sun in your eyes the bright jackets still really “pop” and can be seen.
- It can actually save your life.
I expected people to be able to “see” me and I expected to see more people notice me, but what was unexpected was how people gave me more room on all sides. This was an interesting side effect and I felt safer for it. While working on this article and prepping for our 4th of July Independence Day Holiday weekend here in the United States, I’ve had a great week of riding everyday and wearing the jacket every, and continuing to notice details and make sure that I wasn’t just “seeing things”. Two days ago, I was coming home from work, past the college where the Harley was merged with an SUV a few weeks ago and I saw her: Jill Student, coming out of the college drive. Now, when you’ve been riding for a while, you find that you are hyper-sensitive to things around you and you learn that trusting your guts will save your life. I can’t tell you how many times I got a bad vibe about an upcoming intersection or drive, slowed down, and lived to tell about it. Jill Student was one of those moments. I saw her car and had a vibe, I started to slow down a bit and as I got closer to her I could see her looking away from me, it didn’t look like she was ever going to look my way. I continued to have a bad feeling and slowed down more, then it happened; it was not unexpected, she began to pull out right in front of me to cross the lanes and head back in the direction I had just come from. As she got to where she would touch my lane, her head turned, I could she her panning her look and then her eyes popped and locked right on my orange jacket. Not the motorcycle, not my eyes, the jacket. She immediately stopped and didn’t quite get into my lane (she was coming out slowly, fortunately). If I had been a Mack truck, she could have been dead. If I had not trusted my gut and been wearing my hyper-orange jacket, I could have been dead. But I was close enough to see her, and I if you asked “orange you glad?” I can honestly tell you, “You bet I’m glad!” Orange is cool.
Does this mean I will give up my beloved Hein Gericke leather jacket or my Joe Rocket Honda jacket? No. What is does mean is that I will always keep my hyper-orange jacket with me and will use it often, because it works. I will also be getting a bigger one that I can wear over my other two jackets for when it is late fall or early spring and I really need to make sure that people know I’m there. Maybe orange or yellowish-green doesn’t make for the current version of motorcycle cool or sexy, but as I once heard “how sexy does it look to have your feet and tailpipe wrapped up around your head, with a body full of road and road rash?”